Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Pelham Manor Was Expected to Oppose New York City's Plans to Build Amusement Park on Hunter's Island in 1931

On April 3, 1931, the headline on the front page of The Pelham Sun blared that New York City Planned a "Big Amusement Park" on Hunter's Island in Pelham Bay Park.  The headline also blared that Pelham Manor was expected to oppose the amusement park.

This was the infant planning effort of New York City to create what we know today as Orchard Beach, also known as the "Bronx Riviera."  The original plans as described in The Pelham Sun, however, clearly worried Pelham Manor residents whose little village bordered on Pelham Bay Park and overlooked Hunter's Island.

According to the report, initial plans were to create a massive "amusement park" intended to "rival Playland at Rye."  Among other things, there were plans to build a system of dikes attached to Rodman's Neck and Hunter's Island to enclose a massive "artificial bathing lake with facilities for 30,000 bathers."  The City planned to pump seawater into the artificial lake from the "unpolluted 'safety' zone of Long Island Sound."  The plans also included using the dikes to form the base of a major highway leading to the amusement park.

The Pelham Sun reported that residents of Pelham Manor were expected to oppose the new "Hunter's Island Amusement Park" due principally to noise issues.  At the time, the Village of Pelham Manor was in the midst of a multi-year battle over noise (including loud amplified music) emanating from road houses and beer gardens along Shore Road.  See, e.g., Broadcast Ends at Police OrderThe Pelham Sun, Aug. 29, 1930, p. 2, col. 4 (noting that Pelham Manor had battled the Hollywood Gardens beer garden on Shore Road "about the broadcasting of music through powerful loud speakers" and that after Pelham Manor complained to New York City "The New York City police department issued orders to stop the noisy broadcasting which was being done to attract patrons to the eating place."). 

The "Hunter's Island Amusement Park" so feared by Pelham Manor, of course, never came to pass.  Instead, the plan evolved into a project pushed by urban planner Robert Moses to create a massive, crescent-shaped artificial sand beach facing Long Island Sound.  Eventually the project involved using landfill to fill much of Pelham Bay by dumping the fill between Rodman's Neck, Hunter's Island, and Twin Island (thus connecting the two islands to the mainland).  Thereafter, 1.2 million cubic yards of sand were transported by barge from Sandy Hook and the Rockaways to create a massive artificial beach.  

The original iteration of Orchard Beach opened in 1936.  Though the giant amusement park originally planned never materialized, the lovely Bronx Riviera has been part of Pelham's neck of the woods for more than eighty years.  A description of the beach that appeared in the New York Times in 2000 said:

"Brooklyn may have Coney Island, with its creaky Cyclone and honky-tonk sensibilities, and Queens may have the Rockaways, with its crashing waves and miles of shoreline.  In the Bronx, residents have a less conspicuous oasis, a workingman's Southampton where the water is sometimes as still as a pond and the view onto Long Island Sound includes High Island's radio tower and the massive columns of the Throgs Neck Bridge.  But like its rivals on the Atlantic, the 1.1 mile-long crescent in Pelham Bay Park represents a link to the past for those who have made it their rite of summer, a constant in a borough that has lost so much, from landmarks like the Loews Paradise Theater to neighborhoods plowed over when the Cross Bronx Expressway came through."

Source:  Forero, Juan, ORCHARD BEACH JOURNAL:  Slice of the Riviera, With a Familiar Bronx Twist, Jul. 9, 2000.  

Despite all the angst in Pelham Manor in the early 1930s, all in all the Bronx Riviera has been a good, and now a treasured, neighbor.

Vintage-Style Poster Currently Available on eBay:
RIVIERA"  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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"Extension Of Parkway And Hunter's Island Amusement Park; Plan Of New York City
Park Commissioner Dolan To Recommend Appropriation of $7,155,000 To Continue Hutchinson River Parkway Into Bronx; Pelham Manor Expected To Oppose Big Amusement Park

Plans for the extension of Hutchinson River Parkway into New York City and the development of Hunter's Island into an amusement park that will rival Playland at Rye, were announced this week by Park Commissioner Thomas Dolan of the Bronx.  The project which will entail an expenditure of $7,155,000 will be advanced on the return of Mayor James J. Walker of New York City from California.  

The program as outlined by Commissioner Dolan has several features which will find favor from [the] residents of Pelham Manor among which will be the continuance of the Hutchinson River Parkway and the elimination of the serious traffic hazard which now exists at the parkway terminus at the Boston road in Pelham Manor.  The Hunter's Island Amusement Park however will be strenuously opposed in Pelham Manor, the boundary line of which is only a short distance from the site of the proposed park.  Pelham Manor strenuously objected to the noise which emanated from two roadhouses near Hunter's Island last year.  It is expected to make ever stronger protest against an amusement park just over the border line.

(Continued on Page 5)

(Continued from Page One)

The proposed highway will be a connecting link between the Hutchinson parkway and the Pelham Parkway which passes through Pelham Bay Park.  Commissioner Dolan's plan includes the construction of two approaches to the parkway in Pelham Manor.  He proposes that the Pelham villages pay for the cost of widening highways leading to the proposed parkway.

Inasmuch as the extension would terminate at the Pelham Manor boundary line, the Westchester County Park Commission would construct the bridge over the Boston road and continue the parkway on to the city line.  The Village of Pelham Manor has been urging such a program for several years.

Commissioner Dolan's plan for the Hunter's Island amusement park includes provision for the creation of an artificial bathing lake with facilities for 30,000 bathers on the island.  The lake will be formed by dykes between Rodman's neck and Hunter's Island.  The dykes will form the base of the highway leading to the island and will also serve to impound sea water which will be pumped in from the unpolluted 'safety' zone of Long Island Sound."

Source:  Extension Of Parkway And Hunter's Island Amusement Park; Plan Of New York City -- Park Commissioner Dolan To Recommend Appropriation of $7,155,000 To Continue Hutchinson River Parkway Into Bronx; Pelham Manor Expected To Oppose Big Amusement Park, The Pelham Sun, Apr. 3, 1931, Vol. 22, No. 1, p. 1, cols. 1-2 & p. 5, col. 3.

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